After the cold in Japan, landing in Cairns under the hot sun at 9am was a relief! We got off to a great start with the hotel letting us have our room early at no extra charge – a stark contrast to Tokyo where we paid £100 to have our room 5 hours early and were refused an extra pillow!
Ethan and I left Lee napping and went to explore the “shopping centre” across the road, it was a sorry looking one storey building with five stores and a few food outlets. It was the first place on our travels that I have felt a little unsafe, holding my bag and Ethan closer and tighter than anywhere else. Later on we saw Police warning posters and notices in our hotel reminding people to be alert, so I guess it wasn’t just my imagination.
Cairns itself wasn’t a place we would want to go back to, the city seemed like it was stuck in a time warp, one bus driver asked Lee to leave his empty coffee cup outside on the street rather than bring it onto the bus!
Thankfully we were only there for a few days as a base for going to Fitzroy Island. We did attempt to visit one of it’s beaches – Trinity Beach, which sounded lovely and would have been if it hadn’t rained the whole day! So, we spent a couple of hours doing a round trip on the buses, and ended up going to an indoor trampoline place.
We also booked the Scenic Mountain Railway to go up into the Karunda Rainforest, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to a storm causing damage to the railway. Thankfully it was accessible by a cable car so we used that instead and had a great time exploring. We saw a snake at one of the mid-way stops that had recently had a meal, and a spider as big as a hand! Up in Karunda, we visited the Koala Gardens which was a compact zoo that offered the chance to hold a koala. I booked us in for that and was surprised by how big and heavy the koala was, they look pretty small when they’re curled around a branch.
We were super excited to be escaping to an island for a couple of days, especially since we were in a self-catering, two bedroom apartment – space and food?! Woo hoo!
Fitzroy Island is a coral island, it’s the first time I have been on a full coral beach and it was eerie, like walking on bones and also really painful to walk on, even with reef shoes. Feeling brave, I booked Ethan and I in for a snorkelling boat trip while Lee went diving. I’m not a confident swimmer so I tend to stay out of the water, but I felt safe going with an organised tour. It was the best decision I made because I loved it and Ethan got the hang of it in no time! We were with a great crew who really helped us and made sure Ethan was comfortable the whole time.
We spent two nights there which felt like a good amount of time, we managed to fit in diving, snorkelling, beach time and swimming in the pool.
We originally planned to drive from Cairns to the Gold Coast but taking advice from those who have done it, flying seemed a better option for us to see as much as possible. We had a rented cottage and a hire car so the world was our oyster, for a few days we could work to our own timings.
We headed to Surfer’s Paradise beach the night we arrived, getting there after sunset and having a walk along the still warm, powdery golden sand that glittered on your skin and in the pleasantly warm sea. We even found a couple of paddle boards that had been left behind and grabbed them to try them out the next day.
The next day we went to Burleigh beach and tried paddle boarding, I LOVED it!! I had a new love affair with the sea and didn’t want it to end! Unfortunately Ethan wasn’t keen on paddle boarding, but with miles of soft sand to play with, there was no chance of him getting bored.
For our last day there we went to Dreamworld, a theme park with six thrill rides. After two days of kiddy rides in Disney Tokyo, we chose to be selfish and go on our rides first. We were there on a grey, cloudy Wednesday and queue times were less than five minutes on most rides, so we breezed through them. Ironically, the longest queue was for a mind-numbingly boring kid ride called The Wiggles, based on an Australian TV show. Dreamworld had a 110cm minimum height requirement for any ride that went over 2 miles per hour so Ethan missed out on things he would have gone on in the UK and USA. Overall it made the park dull for him, but next door was Whitewater and Ethan loved that – clenching his teeth against the cold and insisting it wasn’t, even though his knees were knocking together. We practically had to drag him out.
All in all, I really like the Gold Coast, it had the city appeal that I look for with the option of quieter, greener life a short drive away and the beaches were spectacular!
We stopped at Australia Zoo on our drive to Hervey Bay, we were excited to see Steve Irvin’s zoo but, in all honesty,, it was a bit of a disappointment. Reading about his background was interesting and so was the crocodile show but the zoo itself was small with lots of walking space but not enough space for animals, the enclosures were small and animals sparse.
Lady Elliot Island
The crowning jewel of our time in Australia, this coral cay is a sandy beached island at the furthest point of the Great Barrier Reef, you have to fly in and out on their small aeroplane, and they have a runway through the middle of the island. It’s an expensive place to stay so we opted for a single night with an early arrival and late departure to maximise our time there. From the minute we took off, this was an extra special trip, Lee was able to sit next to the Pilot and the view on the approach was incredible.
We stayed in an en-suite cabin which was basic but clean and functional and we were straight out onto the beach as soon as we’d arrived. Feeling more confident in the water, I went on a group snorkel safari tour, the visibility was fantastic, we could see all the way to the ocean’s floor. Even just walking along the beach at the ocean’s edge, you saw bright blue starfish and zebra striped fish.
We were blessed to have coincided our trip with their turtle expert who had been rescuing trapped turtle eggs and planned to release approx. 60 newborns into the ocean that night. It was a magical and uplifting experience to see them waddling past us towards a bright light set in the water and taking their first swim.
The island was so well equipped, I think you could spend a happy few days there. They had indoor and outdoor kids activities as well as all the snorkelling and diving you could ask for. Lee went on a 15 minute snorkel right off the beach and had turtles swimming with him!
Lady Elliot Island is a bucket list worthy trip, I would recommend it to anyone thinking about heading to this part of the world, for added inspiration, their Instagram page is always full of beautiful photos.
Time in Australia flew by and too soon, we were getting the warmer clothes ready for our next stop, New Zealand.